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September 22, 2009

Census: Recession had sweeping impact on US life

WASHINGTON (AP) — A broad survey of Americans has provided striking measures of the recession's effect on life at home and at work: People are now stuck in traffic longer, less apt to move away and more inclined to put off marriage and buying a house.

The U.S. census data, released Monday, also show a dip in the number of foreign-born last year, to under 38 million after it reached an all-time high in 2007. This was due to declines in low-skilled workers from Mexico searching for jobs in Arizona, Florida and California.

Health coverage swung widely by region, based partly on levels of unemployment. Massachusetts, with its universal coverage law, had fewer than 1 in 20 uninsured residents — the lowest in the nation. Texas had the highest share, at 1 in 4, largely because of illegal immigrants excluded from government-sponsored and employer-provided plans.

Demographers said the latest figures were significant in highlighting how profoundly the recession affected Americans as it hit home in 2008. Findings come from the annual American Community Survey, a sweeping look at life built on information from 3 million households.

Preliminary data earlier this year found that many Americans were not moving, staying put in big cities rather than migrating to the Sunbelt because of frozen lines of credit. Mobility is at a 60-year low, upending population trends ahead of the 2010 census that will be used to apportion House seats.

"The recession has affected everybody in one way or another as families use lots of different strategies to cope with a new economic reality," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau. "Job loss — or the potential for job loss — also leads to feelings of economic insecurity and can create social tension."

"It's just the tip of the iceberg," he said, noting that unemployment is still rising.

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